Gluten Intolerance and Seizures
Gluten Directly Related to Seizure Activity
We know there are many causes of seizures, some understood better than others. Of all the organ systems of your body, the nervous system is the one most commonly affected by gluten, even more often than your digestive tract. Your nervous system handles so many varied and important functions that symptoms related it can be quite varied.
Inflammatory changes in the brain and nerves can cause a variety of symptoms including:
- mood disorders
- memory problems
Neurological problems can precede digestive complaints by months or even years
It has been reported that only 13% of patients with neurologic symptoms from gluten have digestive symptoms. And often, neurological symptoms in gluten sensitive patients precede digestive symptoms by months or years when they do occur. For this reason, it is important to keep gluten in mind as a root cause when disorders of the nervous system are present.
Symptoms are the body’s way of letting you know it has a problem it can’t solve itself. If standard tests and exams don’t reveal a cause, then dietary and lifestyle factors, infections, toxins, and other stresses must be evaluated. Gluten can affect you in many ways, chief among them through the nervous system.
A Study on Gluten’s Relationship to Seizures
An excellent study was done with 171 patients who suffered seizures. These same individuals had gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, and calcifications in their brains – a serious condition showing advanced damage. Gluten antibodies (demonstrating the immune system reacted negatively to gluten) were found in their spinal fluid (the liquid that circulates around your brain and spinal cord). Despite the advanced nature of their seizure condition, some patients responded very well to a gluten-free diet.
The root cause is most likely an immune system attack of the nervous system triggered by gluten in a sensitive individual. The immune system, in addition to attacking gluten, gets confused and attacks normal brain tissue that “looks similar” to gluten’s protein structure. This is known as molecular mimicry.
In the brain, once the tissue is inflamed chronically, calcium can deposit and form a hardened scar. Due to the scar, seizures develop and can be difficult to control with normal seizure medications. Seizures are basically short circuits of the brain. Calcium deposits and scars in the brain send off electrical “sparks” that can develop into seizures if enough brain tissue becomes involved. Medication may help the sparks from spreading, but with gluten-related seizures, drugs work less well. If gluten is truly the root cause, then eliminating it may allow the tissues to heal.
A Patient Case Study: Young Girl Leaves Her Seizures Behind
T.S. is a beautiful, vibrant, nine-year-old girl who had begun having seizures at the age of four. She had undergone standard medical testing without a cause of her seizures being found. We first saw her at HealthNOW Sunnyvale Medical Center when she was four years old. Not only did we find that she was sensitive to gluten, but she also had many intestinal infections, a Candida yeast infection and an essential fatty acid imbalance. The infections were greater in number in her than in most adults we treat, and some were very resistant to treatment, requiring two rounds of antibiotics instead of the usual one. She was treated with fatty acids in addition to a gluten-free diet.
T.S. has had absolutely no seizures for over 5 years! She told her mother that she knows that the gluten created the seizures and she is more than happy to keep it out of her diet. It is noteworthy that her mother, also diagnosed by us as gluten sensitive, never ate much gluten until her twenties because as a child, she had sensed that it bothered her. But, recalling when she was in college and consumed a lot of gluten, she remembered suffering from “brain fog” during that time.
Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS) and Celiac Should be Evaluated with Seizures
Evidence of these inflammatory changes can be seen in some gluten sensitive patients via MRI. This was supported in another study examining patients with gluten sensitivity and seizures, which demonstrated deep-tissue inflammation in at least 20% of the children studied who had seizures.
According to the Epilepsy Foundation:
a) By 75 years of age, 10% of the population will have experienced some type of seizure.
b) 3% can be expected to have been diagnosed with epilepsy.
Having seizures is definitely not a rare occurrence in our society. It is critical, therefore, we recognize that a percentage of those suffering may be having seizures as a manifestation of gluten sensitivity. For these individuals, a gluten-free diet may be the only effective treatment.
If you or someone you know suffers with seizures, please contact us. We have excellent success treating a variety of seizures.
We help the world’s busiest people regain, retain and reclaim their health, energy and resilience. We would love to help you.
To reclaiming your best health,
Dr. Vikki Petersen DC, CCN
Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner
Founder of Root Cause Medical Clinic
Author of “The Gluten Effect”
Author of eBook: “Gluten Intolerance – What You Don’t Know May Be Killing You!”